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Cumbernauld's MSP "delighted" at Abronhill High call-in announcement

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 15:37 GMT on Tuesday 19th March, 2013.
CUMBERNAULD and Kilsyth SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn has greeted news that Scottish Ministers have decided to “call-in” North Lanarkshire Council’s decision to close Abronhill High School with delight.
The Scottish Government announced earlier today that they were to call-in the council’s plans, for investigation; plans which would see Abronhill High School closed next year, and transfer pupils to Cumbernauld High School effective from August 2014.
Now though, the authority’s plans have been slowed down by The Head of the School Infrastructure Unit at the Scottish Government, who has today written to North Lanarkshire Council to notify them of the Ministers decision to “call-in” the proposal.
Jamie Hepburn MSP was one of the first to comment on the Government’s decision.
He said: “I am absolutely delighted that Scottish Ministers have called in the Council’s proposal to close Abronhill High School and transfer pupils to Cumbernauld High from next year.  This is welcome recognition of the serious concerns that many people have expressed about this proposal, and which were highlighted by Education Scotland in their own assessment of the plan.
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Ministers have made this decision – which will allow them to scrutinise how the Council has handled the processes involved around the proposal – under the terms of the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010.  Whilst Ministers give further consideration to the matter, North Lanarkshire Council are prohibited from proceeding with their plans.
Commenting, Mr Hepburn added: “Whilst this doesn’t definitively shut down the plans advanced by North Lanarkshire Council, it is clear that Ministers recognise that they have to answer the serious questions and concerns that have been posed of them.  The Council have thus far failed to do so, and it will be interesting to see how they try and justify their plan to the Ministers."
According to the letter from the Head of the School Infrastructure Unit to North Lanarkshire the following reasons for the Ministerial call-in:
Scottish Ministers are concerned that the educational benefits statement prepared by the Council around their proposal lacks clarity about the benefits to be realised in the period before a new school is built.
Scottish Ministers are of the view that the Council may have failed in its statutory obligation, under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended), to seek expect advice on the impact of the proposed merger of the two schools on children requiring additional support. In addition, the Education Scotland report notes that the proposal does not take sufficient account of the possible effects of the changes within Cumbernauld High School for young people who attend the Language & Communication Support Centre and how these changes may impact on their learning.
Scottish Ministers are of the view that the Council may have failed to take proper account of a material consideration under section 17(2)(b) of the 2010 Act by failing to ensure that pupils from Abronhill will have safe and accessible routes to their new school.  Ministers also noted that Education Scotland are of the view that concerns about the safety of walking routes are justified.
Scottish Ministers are of the view that the Council may have failed to take account of the following material considerations under section 17(2)(b) of the 2010 Act due to the following contentions raised in the representations made to them; that the PE facilities at the existing Cumbernauld High School are inadequate for a school with a roll of around 1000 pupils; that Community Groups which use Abronhill High School after school hours were not consulted about the Council's proposals; and that disabled access in the existing Cumbernauld High School is limited due to there being no lift
Continuing, Mr Hepburn said he welcomed “today’s development” and looked forward to seeing “the outcome” of the Government’s scrutiny.
He said: “I very much welcome today’s development, and hope that this is the first step in the proposals that North Lanarkshire have advanced being rejected.  I look forward to seeing the outcome of the further scrutiny that Scottish Ministers will cast on the Council’s plan in due course.”
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